This year in #UX (and a look ahead at 2014)

As the editor of This Week in UX, I’ve been able to regularly note what was going on in the UX domain. This weekly exposure to the best articles on UX design has given me some insights into what my peers were talking about the past 12 months, and what they were excited about in the year to come. So when the editors of UX Magazine asked me to contribute to a end of the year article, I leapt at the chance.

Unfortunately, they only had room for a few of my thoughts, so here’s what was left on the “cutting room floor.”

The year in review 

Flat Design is the new black

While skeumorphic design isn’t dead, it’s certainly not in the best of health. Flat design is the way of the day, and high-profile sites and operating systems (like IOS and Windows 8) have abandoned textures and leather stitching and moved aggressively into using the new paradigm. This is exciting, in that UX designers are no longer limited by real-world metaphors and can create authentically digital experiences. Is Flat design a fad or a long-term design trend? We’ll see… but I think that flat design will stick around for a long time.

UX gets a high-profile case study

Thanks to the high-profile UX #FAIL of the Healthcare.gov website, UX has been “discovered” by the mass media. While the media rarely used the term “user experience”, almost every report covered the usability and latency issues that plagued the site. The “bad UX as news story” phenomenon didn’t start here, but this was certainly the most coverage such a story ever received. With our increasing reliance on technology, I expect we’ll see more such stories in the future.

A robust UX job market

Companies large and small are paying much more attention to user experience, and as a result there’s a high demand for UX professionals. Which is great… Except that in much of the world there aren’t many talented UXers available. For people who are trying to build design teams (like me), it’s frustrating. Noticing this high demand, many business analysts and developers are transitioning into the UX domain, which (again) is great… as long as they bring the proper skills and focus to the table. Will this continue? I think so, since a new “baseline” has been set – 21st Century consumers of technology expect a quality user experience, and UX professionals are needed to help hit that mark.

Predictions for 2014

Here’s a look ahead at the (emerging) trends that I think will gain prominence in the next year (or so).

UX, Quicker and Leaner

More and more organizations are starting to do agile development, in an attempt to get their software projects “out the door” quicker. This approach means UX work needs to be done quicker and differently, which I’ve seen cause some heartburn with some of my fellow UX professionals. While there was lots of discussion of Lean UX in 2013, this will become a much more prominent focus point next year as the approach we take shifts to support this approach.

Intelligent interfaces will enter the mainstream

We interact with scores of interfaces with every day, and the processing power that drives these screens has never been higher… and yet, the UIs tend to be one-size-fits all, with limited personalization. With this increasing computing power, one of the only places left to go is to leverage data to create a bespoke experience. Early steps have already been taken – You see some of this in the Windows 8 “live tiles” functionality, and Amazon’s ubiquitous recommendations – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The idea of personal dashboards that intelligently surface important information to the user is now possible, if not probable. Will they catch on? It depends on striking the proper balance between innovation and user control and freedom… and UX professionals need to focus on finding that balance.

Wearable computing presents design opportunities and challenges

Google Glass, the Pebble watch… we are now living in a world where wearable computers are becoming a reality. While they are not yet mainstream, we are one major product release away from that potential reality (cough iWatch cough). Wearable computing presents users with new and different ways to interact with technology, and how we design these new interactions to make them effective and usable will be one of the major design challenges of next year and beyond.